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DC's and private school: do you explain to them about school fees?

(223 Posts)
wanderings Wed 16-Dec-15 13:09:17

I was asked by my parents which secondary school I wanted to go to, after a few visits to various schools. I happened to choose the one which was a private school, with an entrance exam. I didn't actually know that my parents were paying fees for it until I was in year 8. (Should I have known about this, aged 11?) And I didn't realise until much later what a small percentage it is of children who do go to private schools.

While in a way I understand my parents' decision not to let the issue of fees influence which school I liked best (they rarely explained about big money matters unless I asked), I'm not sure if ignorance was bliss, and I can't help wondering if I had known from the start that it was an expensive school, if I might have worked harder in my earlier years there. (I didn't really start working hard until year 10; there were lots of battles between me and parents about schoolwork!)

emwithme Wed 16-Dec-15 13:29:11

That is entirely at odds with my experience of private schools - from age 10-ish upwards if ever anyone was pissing about wasting time in lessons you'd get the whole "your parents are paying twice for your education, how about you settle down and don't waste their money"

Autumnsky Wed 16-Dec-15 14:27:35

We explained the fee to DS1 before he decided to take the entry test. As we are certainly not rich and school fee would delay our plan to move to a bigger house. I think we should invovle DS1 into the decision.

But we never mentioned the school fee again once he entered the school, as DH and I agree this is our decision, DS shouldn't be pressured because of the fee.

I have mentioned to my DC partly because I want them to appreciate how lucky they are. They know that only a small number of children go to private schools and that they are in a bit of an economic bubble in that sense. They know it is our choice as parents to send them to private schools and they are not responsible for our decision but I do want them to appreciate that they are getting a good opportunity and it would be a shame to waste it (not just academically but to get stuck in to the other things on offer as well).

homebythesea Wed 16-Dec-15 14:57:07

chaz has summarised it very well. We've never used the fact that we pay as a stick to beat them with if things aren't going too well but rather emphasise the amazing opportunity they have as a result. One thing we do insist in is that they go on every trip available, this being one of the main differentiators in my view- if we are paying then they ought to get the most out of the experience! They've been private since day one and I can't remember when we first started talking about how different their school is to those of the vast majority of children - it was probably during the Junior years- but now they are teens they fully appreciate that they are a) in a bubble and b) very lucky

bojorojo Wed 16-Dec-15 14:57:49

I do not understand how a child could not know! Did you not think where all your friends from primary school had gone? Did you never talk to anyone? Did you not think the uniform marked you out as different? That is very odd! My children knew exactly where they were and understood that private was paid for by us and different from state schools. We did not labour the point on what it cost but one did have a choice between the local grammar or an independent school and chose the independent - with our full agreement. She would have worked hard at either school so we never used the cost of the education as a form of encouragement . I don't believe that works anyway.

lifesalongsong Wed 16-Dec-15 15:01:55

If an 11 year old didn't know that they were going to a fee paying school I'd question whether they should be there.

How on earth could you not know?

homebythesea Wed 16-Dec-15 15:04:18

bojo if you've been private since age 2.5 and all your friends and parents' friends are in the same circle etc then of course the child sees that as their "normal" and has no idea that other children don't have the same life. The first time my kids mixed with others outside of school was for Cubs/Brownies at age 7/8 ish and I did that for that explicit reason. Many of their friends have only ever mixed with kids of the same background, eg do sports, music etc through school rather than outside so it's a lot easier than you might think to be oblivious of life outside the "bubble"

LemonEmmaP Wed 16-Dec-15 15:05:21

DS1 is at private school, and is aware that we pay fees. We also told him when he was awarded a higher scholarship as we felt it was appropriate that he knew that his achievements were being recognised.

In truth, we have probably told him a bit too much about the fees - he made a comment a few months ago about needing to leave the school if finances became tight. At that point, I realised that perhaps he was assuming that his time at the school may be restricted, so I wanted to reassure him that he was there for the duration.

lifesalongsong Wed 16-Dec-15 15:10:10

I can see your point at a stretch homebythesea but I just can't imagine a real life situation where this could occur. Would the child in question have no contact with the outside world at all, not watch TV or use the internet.

Do such bubbles really exist?

MarmiteAndButter Wed 16-Dec-15 15:14:07

I think my children have always known their school has fees. They have been independent since pre Reception year.
Tbh, from year 7, my eldest was the one who took the fee cheque into the finance office for me at the start of term...
I don't think there's anything wrong with them knowing.

wigglybeezer Wed 16-Dec-15 15:32:50

Some definitely aren't told, the children of an aquaintance of mine were a bit confused about about why some people (including me) sent their children to the village primary rather than the independent 100 yds up the road that they attended ( we were chatting at swimming lessons). I just told them it was extremely expensive and not everyone could afford it. I don't think it had occurred to them, I did feel a bit awkward, but couldn't bring myself to lie.

saffynool Wed 16-Dec-15 15:43:16

Ds was well aware when he took the entrance exam that without a bursary he wouldn't be going. I pay approx 30% of the fees, and even that is a stretch but I feel it's worth it. I've always been honest and open with him about the money because I want him to understand how lucky he is to have these opportunities.

This term he has had a couple of detentions for missing homework and I may have mentioned the fact that I don't intend to keep paying for him to not make an effort blush

homebythesea Wed 16-Dec-15 15:58:23

life under the age of about 8/9 yes I think it's entirely possible. Watching telly featuring a school is just that - a school. No particular indicators it's any different to the child's school necessarily. As I said my kids have their own "normal' so to some extent the "real" world is ABnormal to them or certainly until an age where we started talking about it. They have known for some time and we repeatedly remind them of it that they are not living a "normal" life by most people's reckoning. Not their fault, but a fact. However many of their friends really have had very little real interaction with people not like them which I raise my eyebrows at....

MrsUltra Wed 16-Dec-15 16:39:20

Fees issue is completely irrelevant.
As parents, we have chosen to pay fees - DC had no say in that.
Most of the DC state primary friends went to fee paying schools, some went state. I don't think it is ever an issue that crosses their minds.
We decided on the most appropriate school for them, and it happened to be fee-paying.
Would never use that as a bargaining chip with the DC.
Do parents at non-fee-paying schools ever say 'Ha, it's all freeeeeee.... don't bother to work if you don't want to' hmm

claraschu Wed 16-Dec-15 16:59:34

I felt there would have been something very offensive in telling my kids that they were getting special, better opportunities by going to private schools.

Some of their friends stayed in state education, and I never intimated in any way to our kids that private was better than what their friends were doing. Nor would I want to tell children that they had to work hard because we were stupid enough to pay lots of money for their education. They need to work hard because they want to learn (and, when they are teenagers, maybe because they are ambitious).

When they were old enough to understand, I told them that I wasn't sure their school was better, or worth all the money, but that I felt our local secondary was very provincial and overly safe: I wanted to send them out into the wider world, which (because of where we live) meant going private.

SheGotAllDaMoves Wed 16-Dec-15 17:03:43

DC have always known they we pay and how much.

It's just a reality of their/our life.

sleepwhenidie Wed 16-Dec-15 17:18:56

Well DS1 knows and having exhausted other attempts, DH and I have used it to get him to work harder. The message from school was that he was constantly messing around. Ours ended up being 'if you want to keep messing about you may as well do it in a school that isn't costing us a lot of money that we have worked very hard for'. And we meant it. I don't see it's a stick to beat him with, it was a one off 'get your act together this term or we will look at a different school'. It was explaining and getting him to appreciate the advantages he has (small class sizes and teachers that he adores, it definitely isn't facilities, extra curricular stuff or trips for him, they barely exist at his school). Kids should respect that - as they should respect any education they receive. It was never as if state school would be some horrible consequence (dcs2&3 are at state), but we were quite calm and matter of fact about there was no point wasting money. He did sort himself out, but that was perhaps a natural maturing more than anything!

purpledasies Wed 16-Dec-15 17:20:00

claaschu - I see what you're saying about not wanting to tell kids that their school is better. I worry that there's a fine line between thinking your school is better, and looking down on kids at state schools and thinking that you, the pupils are better than the pupils at state schools, which I'd hate to happen. I don't really like my DD's private school's attitude of encouraging "pride" in your school, as I feel it's dangerously close to this line.

But ultimately, private school costs a lot of money. If you don't think it's noticeably better than the alternative, free, schooling available, why would you pay? When I teach my kids to manage money I teach them not to pay for expensive items if there are cheaper ones that are just as good - so how could I not tell DD that the expensive school she goes to is better, at least for her personally? I don't think you can really get away with using terms such as "provincial" or "overly safe" without being honest and saying that these things are - in your view at least - less good.

My DD was very aware that her private school she's been at since Y7 is expensive because during Y6 one of her friends in particular was quite jealous of her going there, because she too would probably have been bright enough to get in but her parents couldn't afford it. DD's friend was quite nasty about it at times, but DD did learn that she was very lucky to be able to go to the expensive school.

My DSC on the other hand have been private since the start, and the less streetwise of them did manage to be oblivious to the existence of state schools until the age of around 12. I don't think it's difficult to be unaware if they mix mainly with friends at similar schools and if as parents you don't make a big thing of how lucky they are.

In terms of whether it's right to remind them how much you're paying so they should work hard or make the most of opportunities - I think that differs depending on whose choice it was for them to go private and how old they are. If they were involved in the decision to go private - most likely at secondary age - and chose the school they're at, knowing that it was costing money then it's fair enough they have a sense of making it money well spent. But not fair to put that pressure on kids who've never had any choice about having the money spent on them.

bojorojo Wed 16-Dec-15 18:16:11

Wanderings was asked what Secondary school she wanted to go to. The implication was that she had not been paid for previously. I do know plenty of people whose children go to private schools all the way through but the children are aware of this. Lots of the children in a "bubble" are the ones who would never consider going anywhere else.

I love the idea that the "wider world" is a private school, claraschu. A parochial secondary school being too narrow. How odd. Is it full of children whose parents all do the same jobs? Or are they just lowly beings? Most people would think the wider world is in state schools - at 92% of the population.

happygardening Wed 16-Dec-15 18:28:32

My DS's have always known we've paid fees because they've boarded (from yr 2) and although nearly all their friends and their older brothers and sisters boarded as well boarded they still knew this was not the norm as they had attended days schools in both sectors.
Up until yr 12 I've never used it as a "stick to beat them with" in fact we've never discussed the size of the fees although you obviously wouldn't have to be Steve Jobs to find out. But for yr 12 DS2 looked at our local state 6th form college so whilst he was deciding what he wanted to do I made it very clear that as he has a tendency to do the bear minimum if he was intending to carry on doing the bear minimum he could do that at the local 6th form college for free and that I had no intention of paying a considerable sum for him to sit with his feet in the desk for the next two years. I felt and still feel that by the 6 th form and having made the choice to stay in fee paying education himself that he needs to be aware that it's costing us a considerable amount of money and that we work very hard for that money and therefore expect him to do the same.

wanderings Wed 16-Dec-15 18:41:33

bojorojo That's right, I was at state primary school, but independent secondary. Many children from the state primary went to the independent school, if they passed the exam - at the time I didn't realise there was also the requirement "if their parents could afford it". So I wasn't in the bubble of having known nothing but private. My parents weren't especially wealthy; I gathered that many people at secondary school went on a lot foreign holidays, unlike my family, but I thought nothing of it at the time. My parents rarely talked about other people's money or class, and both my primary schools were quite a mix of children from various backgrounds. My family didn't seem to encourage prejudices about money and class at all, so I didn't learn a lot of this until much later. blush I remember thinking the Fawlty Towers episode "A Touch of Class" was one of the least funny ones, because a lot of the class humour went straight over my head.

claraschu Wed 16-Dec-15 18:51:18

bojorojo We live in a small, very conservative village. Our primary school is 100% white, 100% straight, and mostly married couples who have little interest in the arts. Our kids ended up at a private school in the large and interesting city 15 miles away, because I didn't want them to go to the only available state secondary, which is small, has little arts provision, and seems to me to be narrow-minded and homogeneous.

Their private school in a university town was full of children of: academics from all over the globe, gay people, artists, etc. Many of them were struggling to pay the school bills, and the kids seemed like a more diverse group than the ones at our local secondary.

Purpledaisies I had very mixed feelings about our choice to send our kids to private school, often wondered if I had done the right thing, and am not sure if all that money was well spent. There are good things about our private school: smaller classes, diverse student body, more provision for kids who are very good at music and art, great drama programme, lots of kids who are very academically clever, fantastic sports facilities and teachers. There are bad things too: long commute, competitive approach to too many things, attitude to students that is overly old fashioned, formal and occasionally antagonistic, obsession with achievement.

It's hard to compare these things and decide which are most important.

roguedad Wed 16-Dec-15 18:53:40

We asked our son to rank possible secondary schools we were looking around without regard to whether they were private (P) or state (S). He came up with an ordering P,S,S,P,S and we went with that plan for deciding. He knows what it costs - any kid with a basic grasp of web use can find that out - and we are resolved not to beat him around the head with it (I won't claim that will never happen!). I'd be amazed to find a kid who did not know that it costs money and how much, though in my kids' schools they are encouraged to use the internet from an early age. I have a lot of sympathy with happygardening pointing out that if a kid is not making the most of an opportunity they may as well do it at zero cost, but I'd only deploy that with an older kid! I'll certainly think again on that around GCSE time....

teacherwith2kids Wed 16-Dec-15 18:58:35

Aged 10, I knew that if I got a 100% scholarship in the private boarding school exam that I took, I would be able to go there.

If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to. The same had happened to my DB two years before - he was placed 1 below the scholarship places, and was thus offered a substantial exhibition, but was unable to go.

It was a fact of our lives. Like the MOT day being marked in black on the calendar (because expensive repairs would mean the end of car ownership), like the rarity with which we ate meat and other expensive ingredients, like the fact that all my clothes were home-made, often from cut-down or unravelled and re-knitted adult clothes. We knew that we were poor, in that particularly British educated middle class poor-as-church-mice way most common in old-fashioned vicars.

My parents never used the fact that even the tiny amount they did pay for me (my grandparents paid for my uniform, so it was only 'extras' that my parents paid) was something of a strain on family budgets to beat me with. In fact, when my DF became unemployed and I offered to leave, they mentioned instead that it was almost certainly cheaper to have me away at school than to feed me.

I cannot imagine getting to 11 and simply being unaware that some schools are fee paying and others are not....

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